I remember the very first time my mom dropped me off at the bus stop for my first day of elementary school. I was wearing my new pink Sketcher sneakers, which my Mom hoped would encourage me, but didn’t, as well as a tag around my neck, which showed my assigned bus number, teacher, and classroom number. Wearing the necklace alone made me absolutely fearful. I was used to attending my Aunt’s kindergarten up the street from my house with the rest of the kids in my neighborhood, until I had to ride the bus by myself to a brand new school. It was overwhelming and far out of my comfort zone. After experiencing the fear and anguish of my first day of elementary school, the other students positive behaviors made me realize that I needed to cope with my fear and change it into something positive so that I could enjoy school and other aspects of life. This realization has taught me that I can accomplish anything and has helped me grow into the strong woman that I am today.
As I waited for the school bus to pick me up that morning, I became more anxious by the minute. The sun was shining and the birds were chirping, but the only sound I could focus on was my teeth chattering with apprehension. I could hear the other kids around me giggling excitedly, but I could not figure out why they were so thrilled. My mom’s encouraging words were flowing through one ear and out the other. She kept telling me “you’ll be fine sweetheart; all these other kids are going through the same thing. Everyone is nervous on their first day.” I couldn’t focus on anything other than the fact that I was going to be left on my own. Within the next minute or two, I could hear the squealing brakes of the bulky yellow school bus come screeching to a stop in front of me. I looked back towards my mom as she waved and told me to “have a great first day.” I looked on to the school bus at the overweight female bus driver staring me down with what looked like a piece of leftover food from the morning straggling on her face. I started to cry as I climbed the tall stairs of the school bus to my fate.
The entire journey to school I worried about whether I would be able to find my teacher and my classroom without becoming lost and whether I would make any friends. I even thought about what would happen if I couldn’t find my assigned bus at the end of the day, if I made it through the day. My palms were sweating and my heart was pounding in my chest like it would explode through my ribcage. I was so nervous I felt like I could pass out right there on the spot. In the midst of my panic episode, I acknowledged that I couldn’t become this terrified every time I was left to do something on my own. I didn’t think this intense fear would be something I could just “get over” as I aged nor would I let it eat me alive. As a six year old, it is hard to say that I entirely understood the importance of needing to overcome my anxiety and fear of being on my own. It was obvious enough to see that other kids were positively handling situations like being on their own in elementary school, and I was clearly not. This tremendous difference between me and the other students is what opened my eyes to seeing that I needed to change and do something about my anxiety so that I could have the same experience that the other kids around me were having. Seeing the other students acting calm and excited about school was necessary to trigger my sense of knowing that I needed to cope with my fear, and the realization has helped me handle situations on my own.
Once I recognized that I could handle school just like every other student around me had been doing, I became conscious of the fact that I was held responsible for handling myself for the rest of my life. I changed my fear into an optimistic attitude because I knew Mom and Dad weren’t going to follow me around and do everything for me. I looked around at the kids in the hallways and I came to a conclusion that if these kids can do it, then there is absolutely no reason why I can’t too. Once I had overcome my initial fear of single-handedly having to fend for myself through out the day, I could actually start to enjoy the new changes. First grade was full of exciting and new obstacles and people. I began to finally have fun after I realized how exciting it was to play on the playground with the entire first grade and meet new friends. Even the new crafts and projects we began working on in class were fun, but gym class was my favorite subject because my gym teacher always turned the gymnasium into a zoo of fun with the games he created himself.
I finally understood that school was not so horrible after all as long as I didn’t let my fear hold me back. It took me a while to become adjusted to this new régime, but when I did, I couldn’t have been more at ease. Now, I knew that in the next steps of my life I would be starting from scratch. Each time I was introduced to a new form of independence, I would have the same initial fears of having to complete something on my own. As I grew accustomed to acquiring new responsibilities such as presenting projects to a classroom full of students, driving myself to field hockey tournaments hours away from home, to coming to college and living on my own, I became less and less afraid of having new tasks to complete by myself.
Feeling anxious about becoming independent is completely normal, I have now realized, and I like to think of myself as very well prepared for whatever life throws at me. Coming to college for the first time was pretty stressful, but I know that I am not the only one to have to deal with the stress of finding my classes, managing my time, and doing well in class. My first day alone on campus was exhilarating because I knew that this was my chance to prove that I can conquer my fear of having to do things on my own. I knew there would be plenty of students who would skip their classes, stay out late on all nights of the week, and not complete their assignments, resulting in adverse grades. I took this as my chance to transcend and I worked extremely hard to achieve my goals and well deserved grades. I even took a public speaking course and performed my speeches better than anyone else in the class, which amazed even me. Now, I know better than to start crying in front of everyone when a situation becomes difficult or lead myself into a stress-induced coma. Instead, I compose myself and look at the situation from a different point of view. I know that when something needs to be done, I am going to have to make it happen. Because of my anxiety, I made myself muddle through my fear and it has rendered me into the strong independent woman I am today. If other people can do it, there is nothing that is going to stand in my way, not anymore.